Iraqi PM de­nies at­tack plan as ten­sions rise with Kurds

The Korea Times - - WORLD - AR­BIL (AFP)

— Iraq’s prime min­is­ter on Thurs­day de­nied an at­tack on the Kurds was im­mi­nent, in a bid to defuse ten­sions that had prompted Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers to tem­po­rar­ily seal off road links with the rest of the coun­try.

“We are not go­ing to use our army to fight our peo­ple or to make war on our Kur­dish cit­i­zens or others,” Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi said.

“Our duty is to pre­serve the unity of our coun­try, to im­ple­ment the con­sti­tu­tion, and to pro­tect cit­i­zens and na­tional forces,” he told a meet­ing of tribal lead­ers in the western prov­ince of An­bar, where Iraqi se­cu­rity forces are bat­tling to seize the Is­lamic State (IS) group’s last bas­tion in the coun­try.

The rise in ten­sions came two weeks af­ter Kur­dish vot­ers over­whelm­ingly backed in­de­pen­dence in a non-bind­ing ref­er­en­dum that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment con­demned as il­le­gal.

Iraqi Kur­dish forces closed the two main roads con­nect­ing Ar­bil and Do­huk with the north­ern city of Mo­sul for sev­eral hours, a Kur­dish mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said.

“The clo­sure was prompted by fears of a pos­si­ble at­tack by Iraqi forces on the dis­puted ar­eas,” held by Kur­dish forces but out­side the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion in the north of the coun­try, the of­fi­cial said.

Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties said late Wed­nes­day they feared Iraqi gov­ern­ment forces and al­lied para­mil­i­tary units were gear­ing up to launch an as­sault on the au­ton­o­mous re­gion. “We’re re­ceiv­ing dan­ger­ous mes­sages that the Hashed al-Shaabi (para­mil­i­tary forces) and fed­eral po­lice are pre­par­ing a ma­jor at­tack from the south­west of Kirkuk and north of Mo­sul against Kur­dis­tan,” the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment’s Se­cu­rity Coun­cil said.

Se­cu­rity sources said Thurs­day that Iraq’s elite Counter Ter­ror­ism Ser­vice and Rapid Re­sponse Force had de­ployed more forces near pesh­merga po­si­tions around Rashad, a vil­lage some 65 kilo­me­ters (40 miles) south­west of Kirkuk city.

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